Tag Archive for: science

It Takes More Than Individual Letter Sounds to Read and Write!

phonics posters

I sneakily took this pic at the end of snack the other day….
These 6 kids were engrossed in telling the Secrets (and trying to figure out the ones we haven’t learned yet!) The little guy in the stripes has become our unofficial “Word Jail Warden!” He can spot an ‘Outlaw Word’ a mile away! We will start ‘paroling’ some of them soon!”
Kjersti Johnson- Kindergarten Teacher

Phonics on Steroids: “Warp-Speed” Access
to the Reading & Writing Code in Kindergarten!

A Guest Post by Kindergarten Teacher Kjersti Johnson
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— Accelerating Access to the Code in Kinder!

As teachers, I think we have all had that moment when we sit down with one of our students and they completely knock our socks off! This post is all about one of those moments.

Yesterday, I had just gotten my afternoon class of kindergartners settled into our Dailies….they were spread around the room, some reading, some writing, some listening to books on iPod shuffles, and a few shopping for new books.

I looked around to see who I would confer with (one of my favorite times of the day, by the way!) I started with Abel.

Now let me tell you about a little kindergartner named Abel.

He is one of the sweetest little guys I know. He has an amazing smile, and he is also VERY excited about learning!

He is an English Language Learner who entered kindergarten knowing 7 letters and 0 sounds. He worked SO hard the first weeks of school to learn his ABC’s and by October, he knew ALL 52 upper and lowercase letters! (the Better Alphabet Song was a huge success!)

So back to yesterday……
I sat down next to him and asked him to read to me. That’s when he pulled out Arthur’s Halloween.

I looked at him and said, “Oh, this looks like a great picture read. Can you tell me a story to go with the pictures?” This is kindergarten after all, and it’s a tough book! He gave me a strange look, and then…….He was READING it!

Later in the day, I had him read it again so that I could video it, and here he is reading Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Halloween.

ELL Kindergarten in October—”Spotting Secrets” in Arthur’s Halloween 

“Was” …..?

No problem with the “head-bop” trick!
Secret Stories® Phonics "Head-Bop" Trick— No More Sight Words!
Secret Stories® Phonics Head-Bop Trick for Fickle Vowels

….with its tricky /gh/?
Got it!

Secret Stories® Phonics — The "gh" Secret!
Secret Stories Phonics Secret— Positional Sounds of gh

“Before” ….?
Didn’t stump him. He saw that Babysitter Vowel® o telling e to say its name!  He also spotted /o/ and /r/ who can “never make up their minds when they get together,” and read it like a pro!

“Family” ….?
That Sneaky y® didn’t trick him!

Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret!
Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret

Then we got to “making”…. and guess who was able to use the Babysitter Vowels® Secret to figure out whether /a/ would be long or short?!
He knew it wasn’t right when he first read it, but then he remembered the Secret! (and please excuse me telling another student, TWICE, to go color their work! ;-)

ELL Kindergarten in October—Arthur’s Halloween with Babysitter Vowels®
Kinders Decoding Multi-Syllabic Words with Secret Stories® Babysitter Vowels®!
Secret Stories Babysitter Vowels®— How to Know Whether a Vowel Will Be Long or Short?


Rough-housing /ou/ and /ow/ saying “Owwwww!” No worries.

Secret Stories® Phonics — The "ou/ow" Secret!
Secret Stories® Phonics ou/ow Secret!


“Look and spooky”….?
Knowing the Secret, he switched sounds for /oo/ like a pro!

Secret Stories® Phonics — The "ou/ow" Secret!
Secret Stories® Phonics /oo/ Secret

I was BLOWN away! And so I made poor Abel read that page to everyone I could find! I was so proud of him! (and by the way, he is determined to read the whole book now, and I have no doubt that he will!)

This morning, I shared the video with my principal, our Dean of Students, and our LAP teacher. The question of how and when I use the Secret Stories in my class came up, and I thought to myself, “When don’t I use them???”

The Secrets aren’t limited just to “reading” time. We use them ALL DAY LONG,  which in half-day kindergarten, is only about 2 hours and 40 minutes. (Oh, did I forget to mention that I teach half-day kinder?!) That’s not very long, which is why getting the most bang for the buck in the short amount of time we have is critical. Secret Stories® makes what used to seem impossible EASY! (It’s like phonics on steroids!)

Literally not a moment that goes by that the kids aren’t spotting Secrets.

We look for Secrets in our poems…..

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets — Spotting Secrets in Poems

We use yellow and blue for “popcorn” words. We “butter” the new ones and put blue dots under the ones that we already know. Then we use a green highlighter to find Secrets.

And honestly, I have to say, now that the kids know the Secrets, I spend almost no time at all on memorizing sight words, except for the small handful that really break the rules and have to go to jail, as most of the words the kids can just read.

We look for Secrets in Science….

How Secret Stories Babysitter Vowels® make reading BIG words EASY... even in kindergarten!


Look at the picture above to see how many variations of the word hibernate we found when reading our big book in our whole group Science lesson! One of the kids spotted the er Secret, then another spotted the /or/ and /ing/ Secrets, and we were off! Next came the Babysitter Vowels®, which they used to help them figure out whether the vowels would be long or short. Some students knew the Secret sounds immediately, and others had to check the posters first before sounding out each part, but they were all able to read all of the words— and write them!

No one was left out of the reading and writing fun because we all had one thing in common— we all knew the Secrets!  That day, we did more reading and writing in Science than in our designated reading and writing blocks, combined! What better way is there to show beginning learners what these Secret skills are actually for!

My favorite thing is what happened the following day when I was working with a small group and heard Abel yell from his seat across the room, “Mrs. Johnson! Mrs. Johnson! Look, I found the word hibernate in my book!”

And sure enough, he had.

Even for an ELL Kindergartner in October, sounding out the word hibernate with the Mommy E® was easy!


We use Secrets when we write…..

See the /ow/ and /ing/  in snowing and the /ou/ in mountains!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets in Writing
We look for Secrets when we read the directions on our math papers.


Words like draw and count with the “letters who love each other” (au/aw) and the “letters who don’t” (ou/ow) can’t fool us!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets in Math
Spotting Secret Stories® in Math!


My kids are OBSESSED with these Secret Stories! ......Secret Stories "ou/ow" Phonics Secret!
As usual, ou & ow are not getting along!
My kids are OBSESSED with these Secret Stories! ......Secret Stories "au/aw" Phonics Secret!
The “anniversary” of au & aw Valentine’s Day!










I almost never have to read the math story problems to my kids anymore because they can do it all by themselves using our Secrets!

Secret Stories® has opened up so many possibilities…..there seems to be no limit to what my kindergartners can do. It has really changed everything.

And while I do still have kids that are just chugging along at their own pace, like sweet little Abel, they are ALL sucking up the Secrets— even those who are not always ready to apply them. And that’s okay, because I know they have the “keys” in their pocket that they will need to unlock the words they want when they are ready, just like Abel did.

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— "Secrets Make Things Important!"
Transforming letters and sounds from skills they have to learn
into Secrets they want to know!

Thank you, Kjersti!

I can’t thank Kjersti enough for that deep dive into all of the wonderful things that she’s doing in her kindergarten classroom. I will be doing a part 2 “follow-up” to Kjersti’s post, so stay tuned! (You can catch another post by Kjertsti here!)

And if you haven’t tried the Secrets but would like to try sharing then with YOUR kiddos, you can download this mini-poster “appetizer” anchor pack FREE! 


Free Phonics Posters by Secret Stories


FREE Secret Stories® Phonics— Mini-Poster "Appetizer" Anchor Pack!

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics— Mini-Poster "Appetizer" Anchor Pack!

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics— Mini-Poster "Appetizer" Anchor Pack!


FREE Secret Stories® Phonics— Mini-Poster "Appetizer" Anchor Pack!

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics— Mini-Poster "Appetizer" Anchor Pack!



Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)

Katie Garner— Keynote/Featured Education Speaker and Literacy Consultant

For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here.


Imagine you’re a beginning learner in Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade, and you’re told about the grown-up reading & writing “”secret”  al, and the sound they make when they get together in a word…
A and L love balls!
ALL balls… 
Footballs, baseballs, basketballs, volleyballs… 
ALL balls, ALL the time!!
Armed with this new reading and writing tool, you naturally begin looking for opportunities to use  it, not in a workbook or on a skill sheet, but in real life, just like real grown-ups do!
Take a moment and look around wherever you happen to be. Do you see the al Secret anywhere?   Maybe on a newspaper headline, or on a magazine cover?  Now imagine the text-rich environment of your classroom where opportunities for spotting this and other Secrets are literally EVERYWHERE!
Secret Stories® Phonics— Spotting the "PH" Secret

I’m often asked to create Secret Stories® practice pages and skill packs targeting individual Secrets, but aside from the few I’ve done for the “core” Secrets (i.e. Secrets of the Superhero Vowels®, Spotting Secrets, and Beethoven Blends) I’ve never felt this was necessary.

The best way to hone new skills is to use them, and the best use of the Secrets is for real-life, learner-driven purposes…. which abound in daily reading and writing! Applying the Secrets on workbook pages can’t compare to applying them to the reading and writing activities that are ongoing across the curriculum and throughout the entire instructional day!

And besides, there are so many outstanding and creative resources already available that offer natural reinforcement the Secrets! And since I’ll be doing a few guest posts for Deanna Jump this month on her blog, I thought I’m going to use one of her “Chit Chat” units as an example.

Katie Garner Guest Post on Deanna Jump's Blog
One of the best ways to build learner-automaticity with the Secrets is to provide rich, daily literacy experiences and activities that spur learner-interest so as to inspire use of the Secrets. Activities like Mrs. Jump’s Chit Chat (or any other flexible “open-ended” learning activity/framework) provide an ideal springboard for use of the Secrets for multi-purpose learning!
A consistent, yet flexible format makes for easy differentiation!
The consistent, and yet flexible format of the activities makes it easier for beginning learners to “multi-process.” The open-ended format encourages learners to simultaneously apply the Secrets they know, in conjunction with the individual letter/sound skills targeted (i.e. writing additional words that “start with the letter B” and contain one or more Secrets).
Combing both skill sets for one purpose allows learners to more fully engage with the activities while reinforcing their natural integration (i.e. use of the individual letter sounds and Secretssimultaneously, rather than having to wait to acquire/apply one before the other.) The result is natural, and thus, easy differentiation for a variety of skill-levels and instruction.
Mrs. Jump’s “Chit-Chat Morning Messages” on TpT!
These non-fiction Chit Chat units (below) 
are rich in content and naturally motivate learners application of the Secrets…


Rich, informational content, combined with vivid photographs and realistic illustrations inspire learners to read and write!
Connecting high-interest, non-fiction concepts to what learners already know and understand inspires them to “dig deeper” by reading and writing even more— sparking an interest in further reading, or planting a seed for an exciting, new writing idea, appropriately leveled, non-fiction text activities provide learners with unlimited opportunities to put the Secrets they know to use!

Secret Stories® are literally hiding behind every corner! 
More than anything else, what I love most about using the Secrets to read and write across the instructional day is that it clearly demonstrates the power that comes with owning these tools of our language! The Secrets give those who know them power over text!
For beginning learners, the ability to figure out new words on their own, as well as to write the words they want to use in their stories (regardless of whether or not it is on a sight word wall to copy) is an empowering feeling. And it’s this “power over text” that ignites learners’ desire to read and write MORE!  
The better we are at something, the more we like to do it… and the more we do it, the better we get…
and the better we get, the more we love to do it….
The worse we are at something, the less we like to do it… and the less we do it, the worse we get….
and the worse we get, the less we want to do it….
Get the idea?
Secret Stories® can be found around every corner and on every page of any book OR TpT activity! Anywhere there is text, there are an abundance of opportunities for introducing new Secrets and revisiting/reinforcing old ones!
Can you spot the Secrets on this page of Mrs. Jump’s Non-Fiction Chit Chat unit below?
(HINT- I’ve included some “secret: visual clues to help you spot them!)
Check out this “Spotting Secrets” resource on TpT that gives kids lots of fun practice! It even has thumbnail-sized visuals of some of the Secret Stories® pictures that kids can take home to share on the top of the practice pages!
Free Phonics Posters by Secret Stories
or to view the complete Classroom Kit versions, see the picture link, below.
Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!

Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!


For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 


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